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In These Great Times

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Album Review

After the breakup of the West Coast improvisational jazz group T.J. Kirk, John Schott focused his attention on composing an album-length song cycle that dealt with Jewish prophetic thought during the time of the First World War and the Ukrainian pogroms. The result is In These Great Times, which combines a free jazz trio with German, Yiddish, and Hebrew texts sung by tenor John Horton. The texts themselves seem to be organized around themes of horror and hope — their characters enduring great sorrow aided by memories of a better past and the possibility of redemption in the future. The music is largely gentle, introspective jazz, with swishing brushes adding breath-like rhythm behind the guitar and bass melodies. The vocals are well-executed, alternating between aggressive and beautiful, but they stay closer to the classical vocal tradition instead of adhering to jazz phrasing. The result is sometimes appropriately discordant — the music gives the impression of an off-kilter world. At other times, though, the mixture of styles simply seems disjointed. This is an ambitious project, however, and the listener is rewarded more often than not by Schott's stretching. The reflection and philosophical depth of In These Great Times are rare today, and these qualities alone make this a worthwhile album.


Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Guitarist John Schott graduated from Seattle's Cornish College of the Arts, where he had studied with Gary Peacock and Jerry Granelli, in 1988, with a degree in composition. That year he was musical director for a Shakespearean production, and collaborated with a choreographer for a dance performance piece. In 1989, Schott moved to Berkeley, CA, where he co-founded the group Planet Good, who released their own album Prozac Holiday and became a popular Bay Area band. He remains based out of that locale...
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In These Great Times, John Schott
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